The first is usually, "Who selects your aristocracy?"
48 Who Selects the Aristocracy?
This question comes generally not only from shallow and unscholarly people, but from men who both claim and display much political erudition. For instance, Spitz [(116) Chap. VIII, iii] says: "Who is to select these truly aristocratic naturally eminent men?" whilst Kemp Allen [(32) final Sec.] asks more elaborately: "Who elects the élite and what is to prevent their title to rank being sheer superiority of cunning or of might?"
To begin with, the former are the product of two preliminary selections independent of the popular choice. They are usually self-selected in the first place and do not come forward in response to any popular demand. Secondly, before they actually confront their constituencies, they are, in the majority of cases, again selected and approved as candidates by their respective Central Party Organizations. Only when they stand as "Independents" is the second selection waived.
As Spitz himself acknowledges: "His [the democratic voter's] is a choice that enters primarily after the alternatives are set." Only "within these alternatives, however, is he free to move". [(116) Part III, 4, iii.]
So that in a democratic state, two most important acts of selection are performed before ever the common voter can make his voice heard; and even then, his choice can be only a confirmation of two previous selections. Needless to say, this is a feature of democracy wholly overlooked by the majority of democratic theorists. How extraordinary that Spitz should have seen it and yet felt able to put the shallow question quoted above.
Now let us examine how the rise of an aristocratic body normally occurs, when it forms an integral part of the native population of an area and does not consist of conquering warriors.
In all human societies, whether composed of people of quality or not, needs arise which cannot be met by material means. Man cannot live by bread alone. In a close community, moreover, where everybody is known and narrowly watched by everybody else, no special mastery shown in the conduct of his affairs by one man can escape his neighbours. However faintly outstanding may be his judgment, let it but be above the average, and soon all will be aware of it.
The knowledge of it will eventually produce a crop of experiences among the members of the community sound advice or guidance received in a moment of difficulty, sound directions regarding procedure in face of a perplexing problem, protection against rascally shrewdness in a contemplated transaction, a prescient
Set on even the lowest possible plane, any sign of strength on which others, in an emergency, may lean, will unfailingly lead in a close group, to a man's standing out above the rest.
No one can have lived for long in a close group any village or small country town in England or on the Continent without having discovered that no light can permanently be held under a bushel. Sooner or later usually sooner the majority will bring pressure to bear in order to divert a shaft of that light their way. An individual may start the demand, but it quickly becomes general. Even in our sophisticated, corrupt society, lacking in the quality defined in this book, it is so to this day. It always has been so and will continue to be so.
In a close society any superiority is used to serve those among whom it appears. They may have no means of judging it, as, for instance, if it be merely an erudite grasp of conchology or seismology. But in manifold subtleties which cumulatively will in the end attract notice, the possessor of such a superiority will betray his studious preoccupation with concerns above mere material end-gaining that is the crucial discovery. From that moment, first perhaps one and then all his neighbours will place before him at least their non material problems, perhaps others also. Put the problems on the lowest plane you can think of. In the end he will be asked to help solve them.
If this be granted, it may be stated at once that people like Spitz and Kemp Allen can surely never have lived in such a close society; consequently that they have no knowledge of how leadership, authority aye, and even despotic rulership, may be pressed, imposed, foisted on one willy-nilly.
Only he who has lived in a close community can appreciate the countless petty incompetences, perplexities, and dilemmas of the average man and woman, and how inevitably, ineluctably, these small traverses hoist anyone who can handle them with mastery to a position of prominence, responsibility, and leadership, often à contre cur, sometimes in spite of prolonged resistance.
The only reason why towns and cities do not create such situations spontaneously is that urban centres do not favour the formation of close groups. Hence, probably, the fact that democratic agitators, philosophers, and institutions, like many other plagues of modern Man, have been almost exclusively urban in origin.
Now, there is obviously no trace of self-selection in the situation described, nor even a suspicion of any subsequent selection effected
If then, this kind of aristocratic ascent happens, is indeed bound to happen, even in a population like the present ugly, constitutionally chaotic, sick, and, therefore, owing to inferiority feelings and the envy they generate, disposed to favour pluto-democracy the occurrence and significance of similar ascents in a population composed throughout of people of quality must be proportionately higher. For besides the absence of those psycho-physical states which exclude or stultify an acknowledgment of superiority, all will possess the necessary equipment for assessing quality in another and forcing it willy-nilly upwards.
Moreover, a people of quality, owing to the uniformity the condition implies, and consequently to a corresponding uniformity in their standards of value, will tend to assess superiority as all, including their élite, do. There will be little if any disputing. The merits of a superior individual or group will be unanimously recognized; because the same distinct standards of value rule all judgments [cf. (1) Chap. I.]
Transpose the whole situation of a close community into a loftier key and we behold a society where the formation of aristocratic bodies, to which all look with feelings of dependence, confidence, security, and pride, is wholly automatic. The majority's sense of quality and standards of value grade the leaders and leave them no alternative but that of fulfilling their rôle.
When men like Spitz and Allen put their facile question and, with an eye on their unthinking contemporaries, excite prejudice by asking: "Who selects the aristocracy?" they either betray a genuine ignorance of humanity and of conditions still surviving in all close groups, or else they deliberately, by implication, falsify the picture by suggesting to the ill-informed that the democratic method of merely confirming two selections previously made behind the People's back, is a more direct and fairer way of registering the popular will all of which, as we know, is wholly untrue.
In weather prediction, alone, there are in agricultural communities, as I have found to my surprise, singularly few men who have that capacity for steady observation, for the recollection of past sequences, and for putting two and two together, which would enable them with approximate certainty to read the signs and foretell what may be expected in the next few hours. The ability to do this, however, acquires great importance among land workers and, in view of the rarity, even today, of the gifts required for weather
There can be no mystery in the regularity with which kings, chieftains and leaders of all kinds have, from the earliest times, been suspected of and associated with magical powers and, on that account, elevated to high religious offices. Hence, also, the fact that, because of their much greater experience and knowledge, old men are so often the principals of a community where no other class divisions exist. The authority of old men and women in Australian, Eskimo, Fuegian, and some North American tribes, is an example of this. In Central America, for instance, it is the ahuales, or men over forty who have distinguished themselves in some way, who dominate the councils and direct the aggregate will.
Thus, Herbert Spencer says: "leading parts in determining this aggregate will are inevitably taken by the few whose superiority is recognized", and he speaks of "unusual sagacity, skill, or strength" as a source of influence. (Princ. Sociology, II, Chap. V, Secs. 464465.)
"His ability to render service to neighbours," says Spencer, "is at once the foundation and measure of his [the Chinook Chief's] authority." (Ibid., Sec. 466.) And no one familiar with the many descriptions we have of primitive peoples supplied by anthropologists, and of higher civilizations given us by historians, will feel any surprise when he reads of the ancient Peruvians, for instance, that "the crania of the Inca race show a decided superiority over the other races of the land in intellectual power". (Prescott: History of the Conquest of Peru, 1878, p. 18.)
Superior gifts of intellect, therefore, which inevitably cause a community to assume an attitude of dependence, a sort of mental parasitism towards those who display these gifts, is, to all intents and purposes, an automatic process of élite formation.
There can be no need to multiply instances. The fact that peculiar merit, recognized by a community, forces its possessor willy-nilly to a position of influence, is well established and accepted. If many early kingships, as Sir James Frazer shows (The Magical Origin of Kings), have been, as in Egypt, also associated with magical powers and consequently with high religious authority, it is merely because primitive Man commonly associates unusual gifts with supernatural powers. Thus Hintzilopochtli, the founder of the Mexican Empire, was said to have been a great wizard and sorcerer, and of the Melanesians, R. H. Codrington says: "The power of the chiefs has hitherto rested upon the belief in their supernatural power." (The Melanesians, 1891, Chap. III.)
But superior mental gifts are not the only criteria by which a
There is no point in holding up the argument by dwelling on military prowess, for instance, as one of the qualities for which a member of the élite will be tested, as among the Iroquois (A. A. Goldenweiser: Early Civilization, p. 79); nor need we concern ourselves with the shaman's and medicine man's powers, as these, though important anthropologically have little direct bearing on our thesis.
The criterion consisting of psycho-physical superiority, however, concerns us closely; for, without it, the claim to be an élite among a people of quality is fundamentally false. As Disraeli pointed out and it is worth repeating "the superiority of the animal man is an essential quality of aristocracy". Proust's remark, quoted at the head of Chapter VIII, reveals the absence, not the existence, of an aristocracy.
Thus, when an élite is indigenous, a further test, beyond that of mental gifts, is usually applied, either instinctively or consciously, by the rest of the community. Where inbreeding has produced a high degree of standardization and, therefore, of beauty, there will prevail a keen appreciation of those features and bodily proportions which best epitomize the psycho-physical ideal of a people, and those who display this optimal epitome will make a peculiarly persuasive appeal. [See (65) Intro. and p. 276 ante.] Consequently, given a man, who, in addition to intellectual gifts, which inspire dependence, has also general psycho-physical superiority consistent with the people's ideal, his chances of being driven upwards are certain.
From the reasons sufficiently elaborated above, it follows that where superior psycho-physical quality is present, superior quality in every expression, judgment or production may be expected. Hence the importance of the tendency in a standardized people to recognize as their best examples those men and women who most ideally represent their standardized type, who are, in fact, the highest incarnations of their standards of value. When once, however, such optimal "epitomes" of the psycho-physical ideal of a people have been impelled upwards, the naturally endogamic instinct of the whole community will reveal itself in the specially selected group in the form of a marked preference for their like, and they will be prone to make up a close society with feelings of aloofness towards the rest, just as the rest feel aloof from strangers and
In this way, superior beauty among them would be but an essential by-product of that fitness for leadership which caused their elevation. We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the prevalence of beauty and of a concern for it among ruling élites.
Even among the Fijians, the Sandwich Islanders, the Tahitans, the Tongans, and the African races this is so. But, when we come to more civilized peoples, the concern about beauty in the ruling élite is unmistakable.
According to an early Peruvian legend, the first Incas impressed and awed their subject people by their beauty. (Letourneau: L'Evolution de l'Education, I, 196.) Evidently the ancient Israelitish aristocracy also connected psycho-physical harmony, and therefore beauty, with a title to dominance, for they strictly excluded from their caste anyone with a bodily blemish lest he profane the Lord's sanctuary (Leviticus xxi, 1623), whilst it is evident from their monuments that the aristocracy that supported the rule of the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt must have been one of the best-looking classes of men ever seen on earth.
The ancient Brahmin likewise insisted on the importance of beauty in the ruler caste. Unconsciously, or as the result of ages of acute observation, he saw in beauty a sign of psycho-physical quality, and therefore held that where it was most conspicuous there was likely to be superior fitness for leadership. lie was urged to select only a beautiful wife and was given minute directions concerning the kind of woman to avoid lest his stock should deteriorate. [(90) Chap. III, 60 62, and 78.]
The Chinese, too, recognized the essential relation of personal beauty to superior ruler gifts, and in the Works of Mencius (Legge: Vol. II, Book VII, Chap. 21), we read that the signs of the superior man are "a mild harmony appearing in the countenance, a rich fullness in the back, and the character imparted by the four limbs. Those limbs understand to arrange themselves without being told." Presumably this relates to the good co-ordination of a creature psycho-physically harmonious a very important point.
Even of the various alleged "aristocracies" of Europe Reibmayr claims that they excelled their peoples in beauty and thinks that this was so especially in ancient Greece. [(88) p. 65.]
Now to suppose, as most superficial thinkers, whether on politics or sociology, actually do, that in the above-mentioned conditions for the emergence of a superior individual or caste there is any element of self-assertion or insolent self-selection on the part of the social group thus elevated above the common level, is amongst
It is important, however, to remember that the above description of the normal genesis of a ruler-class applies chiefly, if not only to those élites which are indigenous and therefore of the same stock as those they govern and upholders of the same distinct standards of value. There are a few exceptions to this rule. The Khonds, some Central Asiatic Highland tribes, the Chibchas, the Tamanacs, etc., are mentioned in this connexion. But where an aristocracy, in our sense, rises to power and displays a sense of responsibility, attachment, and benevolence to its people, as in ancient Egypt, or Venice, for instance (up to a point, in Berne also), it has usually been indigenous. Nor is this anything but comprehensible.
49 Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
As might have been expected, critics and opponents of the aristocratic régime have made much capital out of the further facile argument that, in an aristocracy, nobody controls the rulers and consequently their rule, however good at first or at any stage, inevitably deteriorates and, if only because of a decline in their sagacity and the corrupting influence of power, ends in the gross abuse of privileges and the ruthless exploitation of the ruled.
Can Spitz really be as ill-informed as this? It is hardly credible. But feigned ignorance may be very useful in debate and may help to score points which the crowd will consider conclusive; for the crowd's ignorance may always be safely assumed.
But what, after all, is Spitz really claiming?
Merely that all hierarchies based on the aristocratic principle must be and always have been wholly bereft of a sense of self-preservation have deliberately compassed their own doom.
Is this true?
It is quite untrue. Admittedly there is, as far as we have been able to discover, no trace of any lively sense of self-preservation in any of the political pseudo-aristocracies of England, France, Spain, Germany, and Russia. With but few exceptions, consisting only of specially gifted individuals, not plentiful enough to alter the general trend, history depicts all of them as assiduously pursuing the suicidal course of short-sighted exploitation and self indulgence. Here and there we may perhaps see some concern about not breaking the camel's back too promptly or irrevocably. But, on the whole, it is true to say that all of them appear to have been animated by no other motive than that of enjoying the present to the utmost and hoping that the deluge would be mercifully delayed until after their time. Stated in the most moderate terms, they do not appear to have been so desirous of retaining their privileges as to take intelligent steps to preserve their credit and prestige with the people. Even in the criteria they applied in order to recruit fresh members to their class, this was so.
But do we turn to the counterfeiters in order to study and appreciate a coinage?
Had Spitz studied the indigenous aristocracy of Venice, for instance, he would have seen in full swing an elaborate organization, set up and run by the patricians themselves, to keep their colleagues always efficient, honest, and humane in their political capacity. The famous Council of Ten, founded in 1310, was a Watch Committee of ten patricians elected annually by the Grand Council from among the more illustrious of their order, and it was controlled by three chiefs (Capi del Dieci) whose term of office was a month only. Their function was to superintend the whole of the administration of the Republic, including especially the behaviour and actions of their fellow-rulers and even the Doge himself, and their powers were as absolute as their decisions were final. Three times, in 1582, 1628, and 1792, attempts were made to abolish this Council, and
Despite the severe discipline it exercised over them, or on that account alone, it enjoyed the complete confidence of the majority of the aristocracy, maintaining their prestige, honour, and credit by the high standards it exacted, and Diehl regards it as the strongest pillar of the régime. (Op. cit., Chap. III, Sec. 5, and ii, Sec. 7.)
Moreover, as if to make assurance doubly sure, in addition to the functions of the Ten, a rigorous discipline was exercised by the Inquisitori del Doge defuncto, whose duty it was to examine the record of the Doge after his death and, if any serious shortcoming could be attributed to him, to punish his family accordingly.
"They were three in number," says Alethea Wiel, "and were to examine into the rule and administration of the late Doge, to see whether he had lived up to the promises made by him in his Promissione, and if in any case they found him wanting they would call upon his heirs to atone as far as possible for the short-comings laid against him." (Venice, p. 155.) Strange to say, or perhaps as we might have expected, there was a similar institution in ancient Egypt. [(94) Vol. III, pp. 453454.]
No wonder Lecky is able to observe that "the most enduring aristocratic government that the modern world has known was that of Venice". (Democracy and Liberty, Vol. I, p. 354.)
But the point need not be laboured. Enough has been said to convince us that this Venetian aristocracy had that enlightened sense of self preservation which prompted it to take the only reasonable steps which any hierarchy is bound to take if it wishes to survive without loss of prestige and authority. There is no mystery about its exceptional duration, nor is it in any way obscure. The fact that the most essential of all measures, aiming at the preservation of a ruling body's authority and credit, is the stern discipline of its members, would seem to be obvious. That it is by no means self-evident, however, is proved not only by the ignominious fate of our own and many Continental aristocracies, but also by the facile challenge with which this Section opens.
It is not here claimed that the Venetian patricians fulfilled in all respects the requirements above defined for an aristocracy. In their lack of strict aloofness towards the stranger and foreigner and their frequent marriage into families of alien race, they fell short of the minimum conditions which would have preserved the uniformity their segregation and inbreeding had originally produced. As Lecky observes, they were, moreover, "a mercantile aristocracy", and on this account were, from the start, inclined to allow pecuniary to outweigh more important biological and æsthetic considerations in their estimate of men. But, in view of these very defects, their
Spitz says: "If the aristocrat does wrong, we cannot look to another aristocrat for the remedy." As we know, this is true of our own and many a Continental aristocracy, but it is by no means the universal truth that Spitz would like us to believe.
Besides Spitz had no need to wander as far afield as Venice in order to correct his misapprehension. In England itself he could have found at least six corporations similar to aristocratic hierarchies, which maintain the quality of their service to the public and, therefore, their prestige, credit, and authority by disciplinary councils reminiscent of Venice's Council of Ten. Without pausing to look at the internal discipline of the ancient Merchant and Trade Guilds, if he had troubled to study our modern Church, Army, Navy, and Medical and Legal professions, he would have found in all six, tribunals set up for checking or eliminating those elements which threaten to damage the good repute and authority of these corporations. In the General Medical Council, the Law Society and the Bar Council, he would have seen working conclaves of experts, not only concerned with superintending the conduct and performance of colleagues, but also able, if necessary, and independently of the official judicial system of the country, to inflict penalties for "unprofessional conduct", which in severity yield little to those imposed by the criminal courts.
And why do these three professions to mention them alone find it necessary and expedient to set up these internal tribunals? Why does the Law allow them this private jurisdiction? They find the tribunals expedient because it is in the best interests of any corporation, enjoying privileges and superior status, to maintain a high standard of service and quickly to lop off from the main tree of the profession any branch that threatens to lower the quality and therefore the credit of the whole.
On the other hand, the Law allows them this private form of discipline and, without the intervention of a state-paid judge or a jury, suffers them to inflict penalties on their erring colleagues, because it assumes that they know best how and when the rules of their particular skill have been infringed, and, above all, how the prestige and power of their corporation are best maintained. Also, it should be noted, that it is they who have the duty of deciding whether new recruits to their ranks are up to the standard required for efficient service.
But, this being so, why cannot we look to another aristocrat for the remedy when an aristocracy does wrong? Because, incredible as it may seem, no English aristocracy of any period has had the good sense, not to mention the sense of preservation, to see that it was in the best interests of a body enjoying exceptional privileges, prestige, and power, to take the only possible steps imaginable for preserving their position.
50 Durkheim's Objection to Psycho-physical Standardization
The difficulties of realizing the ideal outlined in this treatise are immense and in the present state of ill-informed public opinion, both high and low, intimidating. But, whilst readily acknowledging the formidable obstacles in the way of a recovery of quality by modern civilized people, it is important to recognize, first, that the difficulties in question are at bottom sentimental and could be overcome at one stroke by a remonetization of current values; and, secondly, that whilst in the present state of public opinion it may be a formidable task to effect this remonetization, it is neither candid nor decent to exploit this fact by persuading the ill-informed both high and low, as many are doing, that an élite capable of leading us to the recovery of a desirable world and, above all, of desirable human inhabitants of that world, can be produced by other and simpler means than a restoration of psycho-physical quality in the general population.
Now seeing that the word "race" implies a more or less standardized type, it is not clear what Crew means here. We take it, however, that he means much the same as Durkheim. Unless he assumes, as we do, that the modicum of individual diversity which, in Nature, occurs even in the most standardized peoples, amply suffices for the versatility required for different services, he must mean what Durkheim means.
Mannheim, on the other hand, deliberately invokes Durkheim's authority in pleading for a great diversity of types in modern society, and agrees that without it the division of labour, essential to a complicated civilization, is impossible.
In his book, De la Division du Travail Social (1893), Durkheim does in fact advance this view. He points out how fatal to traditional customs and morals and to the preservation of hereditary traits, are large cities, and regards hereditary capacity as an obstacle to the variability required for the division of labour. Since, moreover, he associates progress with the latter, he necessarily favours random breeding, which leads, as we have seen, to the utmost individual variation.
Thus, of hereditary capacity, he says: "il constitue un nouvel obstacle à la variabilité individuelle et, par conséquent, au progrès de la division du travail". (Liv. II, Chap. IV.) He, therefore, is committed to the conclusion that race (or standardization) and individuality are opposed. "Plus grand est la part de l'hérédité dans la distribution des tâches," he says, "plus cette distribution est invariable, plus, par conséquent, les progrès de la division du travail sont difficiles alors même qu'ils seraient utiles." (Ibid.)
In conclusion, he says: "Pour que la division du travail ait pu se développer, il a fallu que les hommes parvinssent à secouer le joug de l'hérédité, que le progrès brisât les castes et les classes." (Ibid.)
In plain English, it is clear from this brief presentation of his case that Durkheim regards the standardization of type resulting from segregation and inbreeding as a severe hindrance to the division of labour, which he holds to be essential for progress; also, that he regards the extreme variability resulting from random breeding as desirable for the same end.
In meeting this objection to psycho-physical standardization, it is important to point out at once that the factor of quality seems to be entirely overlooked; but it will not be necessary to enter into the pros and cons of the principle of the division of labour itself, for that would take us too far afield.
All Mill's criticisms are cogent and justified. But they are irrelevant. For our present concern is only to refute Durkheim's objection to our advocacy of a standardized population, and his implication that a high civilization depends on a great diversity of types for the division of labour it presupposes.
As Durkheim overlooks the fundamental connexion between psycho-physical quality and the quality of the human product, we find in his theory no adequate substitute, which his random-bred diversity of types would provide, for the loss of human quality and the consequent loss of quality in production.
At least as applied to mechanized industry, however, there is a catch in Durkheim's theory and we wonder how he could seriously have propounded it. For, if a vast diversity of types is necessary for the division of labour essential to civilization, it can mean only that each type brings a unique quality to his own separate employment. Otherwise all workers in a mass production might equally well be standardized robots with different coloured hair. But, in so far as a division of labour in this form of production is concerned, a unique kind of quality is not only unwanted, but, if present, would also be of no account. Most of the operatives, after a little tuition, could take the place of their fellows. Indeed, we actually find the present random-bred and highly-diversified population, devoid of psycho-physical quality; wholly adequate for the production of Shoddy and Brummagem. So that in respect of a high proportion of the workers in a civilization like ours, this alleged need of a diversity of types, implying a diversity of special qualities, is pure humbug. For, as already hinted (Sec. 32), had our population consisted of men and women of quality, their resistance to the tasks our civilization offers, would have been very different from that of the Luddites.
Now, Durkheim must surely have been aware of the enormous number of bread-winning occupations now offered to the "Working Classes", in which the only skill required is that of turning a lever from left to right and vice versa. And yet not once does it seem to have occurred to him that, far from a diversity of types, with their
Thus, apart from the fact that, in any case, a great diversity of types argues an absence of psycho-physical quality in a people, and therefore that it is idle to expect a diversity of special qualities in a population like ours, Durkheim's theory is invalid at least for considerable sections of our working personnel, because, even if they possessed the diversity of special qualities he implies, there would be no use for them.
Now, if we look at the higher callings, the really skilled work of engineer-mechanics, craftsmen in general, artists, and the skilled intellectual work of the liberal professions, we do indeed see a need for a certain inborn propensity. But, again, the best way of meeting this need is not the wild diversity of unique individuals which Durkheim's theory presupposes and which is in fact being produced today. For, as we have seen, this only reduces men to nonentities raging with inner conflicts that sap their strength. Nor is it the undermining of hereditary influences which he welcomes as the means to "progress". The best way is precisely the cultivation of those special aptitudes which the cumulative effect of generations engaged in the same occupations is calculated to ensure. He himself mentions, for instance, that in Athens medicine, and in Sparta flute playing and cooking were hereditary professions. If Hippocrates and Galen were the outcome of this policy, is it to be regarded as so obviously mistaken?
Besides, the whole of Durkheim's implied attack on human standardization is in any case a mare's nest, and it makes one wonder whether it may not be merely a far-fetched device for defending the deleterious modern trends of democratic theory. For, to prove his contention to the hilt it was incumbent upon him to show beyond cavil that, in a standardized people, even when derived from highly endowed races, there is not enough versatility in average men to enable them to adopt an infinite variety of skilled and semi-skilled callings. But this he does not do, and on this score alone, history invalidates his claim.
This brings me to the second and more complete refutation of his theory the failure to show that there was in fact any lack of a wide diversity of capacities and skills in civilizations created by wholly standardized peoples. For he reasons as if we ought always to find in a civilization such as that of the pre-dynastic Egyptians, for instance (than whom none have ever been known to be more completely standardized psycho-physically) the whole population all tinkers, or all carpenters, cooks, potters, or irrigation experts, and
But, as a matter of fact, we find in the civilization evolved by these pre-dynastic Egyptians, a profusion of the most able technicians in every branch of civilized life. We find a wealth of different products which for perfection and variety rival anything the world has since seen. True they had no steam-engines, jet-planes, or submarines. But can anyone doubt that, if they had felt the need of such contrivances and possessed the materials for their manufacture, some of their number would have shown the ability to fashion them?
Let anyone who doubts this turn to such treatises as Flinders Petrie's Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt, or Maspero's Art in Egypt, and note how near to the period of the greatest psycho-physical standardization of these people are their highest products in variety, accuracy, and quality of workmanship and taste.
Referring to the pyramid of Khufu, alone, in the Fourth Dynasty, Flinders Petrie remarks of the stone work, it "had an error of less than .6 of an inch on its side of 9,069 inches, or 1 inch in 15,000, and its corners were square to 12 inches". And he adds: "A change of temperature during a day would make larger errors than this in a measuring rod. The accuracy of levelling and of finish of the stones is on a par with this; joints over six feet long are straight to a hundredth of an inch." And we see from the remarks that follow about later pyramids that the further we recede from the period of complete standardization, the less accurate and careful such work becomes. (Op cit., Chap. VII.)
Of an unfinished tomb of the Third Dynasty Pharaoh, Nefer Ka-Ra, Maspero says: "The richness and the cutting of the materials, the perfection of the joints and sections, the incomparable finish of the basin, the boldness of the lines and the height of the walls, all combine to make up a unique creation." (Op. cit., Chap. II.)
Does anyone doubt that such workers could, had they wished, have applied themselves to other skills in which accuracy, care, finish, and taste were required?
"About the time of the IVth and Vth Dynasties," says H. R. Hall, "the nation attained its full measure of civilization, and Egyptian art and the Egyptian script assumed the form which is the framework, so to speak, on which all the later developments were fashioned." [(18) Vol. I, Chap. VII, I.] So that the wonders described by Petrie and Maspero belong to the period of the completest standardization, or followed immediately upon it.
If now we turn to the statuary, jewellery, metal work, pottery, glazed wood, and ivory work, we find the same diversified competence, good workmanship, and taste.
There remains the question of progress, on which Durkheim lays much stress. Is it true that what he calls "progress", whether desirable or not, depends on the breaking up of a string of hereditary qualities in a people, and in the utter atomization of a population through the individual disparities arising out of random breeding?
There can be little doubt that this too is a mare's nest. For, in the first place, there can be no desirable progress which does not consist of a betterment of human nature itself. Even if, therefore, it were proved which it is not that "progress" in the popular sense is impossible without the present wild differentiation of individual types, which the policy of random breeding produces; no amount of it, no profusion of discoveries such as wireless communication, television, stratosphere locomotion at sound-speed, etc., would compensate mankind for the loss of psycho-physical quality which random breeding and the extreme diversity in nullity which it produces, render inevitable.
On this very question of progress, however, it is clear that once again Durkheim was theorizing without any attention to historical facts. For if he had studied the Egyptians up to the time when they ceased to be a standardized people he would have discovered that all their swift and remarkable progress was concentrated in the predynastic centuries and up to about the Fifth Dynasty. Thereafter, change in any desirable direction which should be the only meaning of progress utterly ceased. And why was this?
"The singular lack of originality, and the slavish devotion to convention," says Elliot Smith, "which are the outstanding features of the modern Egyptians, are sure tokens that the former abilities of the race have been affected by fifty centuries of negro-admixture, which has more than counterbalanced the infusion of virile northern blood that. . . helps to explain the greatness of Egypt's achievements in the zenith of her power and influence." [The Influence of Racial Admixture in Egypt (56), 1915, Vol. VII.]
The same is to some extent also true of the Venetians; for their
Thus, the only quasi-scientific objection which has been advanced from the standpoint of civilization against the policy of human psycho physical standardization is seen to be devoid of any foundation, and its insidious appearance of plausibility alone could ever have secured it the attention of the thinkers mentioned. Indeed, it amounts to no more than a desperate rearguard action by the opponents of an aristocratic order. Such, however, is the hold which democratic theory and practice have fastened upon the mass of mankind, who tend to heed less than scientists the increasing body of scientific data discrediting democratic policies, that hardships much more severe than those hitherto suffered by Western humanity will be needed before a complete revulsion of feeling may be expected.
Because, except for a gradual decline in their joie de vivre through the steady loss of buoyant health and forest stamina, and except for the steady but very substantial depreciation in the pleasures they derive from each other, especially in the sphere of venery, the people of Western Civilization have had few cruel and terrifying shocks which could have brought home to them beyond any possibility of doubt the radical errors of their democratic way of life. To this very day even the majority of the educated still remain unaware of the extent to which democratic practice, carried into every department of their lives, has impaired the elementary natural pleasures of their existence and impoverished their human world. Let the general misery, however, among both high and low, especially that misery which comes from self and results from being a low powered, ill-constituted, badly-functioning drab and unattractive organism, surrounded by similar organisms let this misery increase by a few degrees, and expose to everyone its chain of causes, and, unless we are all utterly hopeless, there must surely come a revolt against the teaching which, ever since Hellenic times, has made us, at such heavy cost, deviate from the path of Health, Happiness, and Handsome Looks.
51 General Conclusion
Thus, briefly stated, what does the Rule of the Aristocrat, applied to nations, actually mean?
It means restoring to a people not only quality in themselves and uniform standards of value, but also the supreme advantage of giving birth, within their own kind, to those highest epitomes of themselves, the exemplars of Flourishing Life, who can lead them and keep them to the road of greatest felicity that felicity which consists in the ability to enjoy life as creatures of optimal well-being and spiritual serenity.
That Democracy makes such a destiny impossible, is at bottom its completest refutation.
To claim that Man's mastery over Nature, and his technological progress have now far outstripped his moral progress, is a commonplace of modern hortatory literature. The claim is, indeed implicit in the Movement identified with Moral Rearmament, and is summarized in Catlin's remark that "there is yet no reason to regard the last three thousand years, if we look to moral ideals, as a history of progress". [(83) Chap. XVII, 4. The italics are Catlin's own.]
But, in truth, a far more severe condemnation of the period in question should be made. For, what has really happened is, not so much that scientific and technological progress has outstripped moral development, as that for centuries this progress has gone on whilst Man's psycho-physical worthiness has been disregarded. And it is from this fundamental neglect that our great miseries really arise.
The very concept of a human thoroughbred, which went astray in Europe over two thousand years ago, has now been completely forgotten and lost; and, since no real progress in human happiness, beauty, and life-mastery can be possible without a restoration of this concept and the means of realizing it, this should have a prior claim upon our attention.
One last word. Many may think that the thesis expounded in this book is refuted by its self-evident impracticability in the present Age.
Let those who hastily assume this position, however, reflect that necessity often compels and that, as Catlin truly remarks: "The ideas that are hopeless today in the sight of practical men, tomorrow prevail." [(83) XXII, 6.]